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Success on Yelp: Free and Paid Tools

With Emily Washcovick

31 minutes

Build and grow your business with Yelp

Verify my free listing

This year has been filled with unexpected challenges for everyone—but especially for business owners. In this webinar, discover how Yelp’s new tools and features can help you communicate the most important information about your business to current and potential customers.

In this session, Yelp’s Small Business Expert Emily Washcovick goes over the free and paid resources that are new to Yelp this year, including:

  • COVID resources and the most important information in the eyes of your customer
  • Yelp’s free tools and information on our newest features (for example, verified license and services offered)
  • What’s new with Yelp Ads

Effective marketing and consistent customer communication are the keys to your success. These free and paid tools were designed for you to succeed in these areas so that you can optimize your listing and take control of your online reputation.

Emily Washcovick Senior Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert at Yelp


As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.


Hello. Thank you so much for tuning in to hear about Yelp’s new tools and features. My name’s Emily Washcovick, and I’m Yelp’s small business expert. I’ve been presenting on behalf of the company for seven years, and I always share my email address and let you know that you can reach out to me today, tomorrow, a week from now or even a year from now. If I don’t have the answer to your question, I will certainly connect you with someone at the company who does. Today, we’re going to go through a handful of items. This is a high-level overview. We’ll cover a little of consumer behavior.

We’ll talk about all the free tools that you should be taking advantage of to have the best presence on our site. We’ll talk about some of the COVID features that you can use to get more visibility and connect with consumers. And I’ll show you some new tools and features and even some paid products that you might not be aware we have. 

Understanding consumer behavior

First, consumer behavior. We all know that we use reviews in our day to day life, whether it’s on Yelp or other platforms. We are constantly looking at what other consumers have to say before making buying decisions.

A couple years ago, I ran the Chicago marathon and I always tell the joke that I lost a few hours of my life searching for socks and reading sock reviews even though I already knew the brand I wanted. It felt like a big decision. And if other people had already done the work to find a great pair of socks, I wanted that information. And we as consumers trust online reviews more than we used to because we’re so used to accessing that information. 97% of consumers actually say they read online reviews for businesses, and many of them trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Updating your profile

Now, when consumers are on the internet looking in a variety of places, they’re doing that for different reasons, right? Your social media is a place where they connect and engage with you. Google is a place where they might learn or discover more information. On Yelp consumers have already determined the good or service they need, and now they’re just looking for a business who can provide it for them. And that’s why it’s so important to have your information completed and to have control over your profile so that you can start these conversations with high intent consumers.

Claiming your page

So how do you do that? Well, it all starts by claiming your business page. And you can do that by going to We also have a mobile app. You can find that in your app store, by searching Yelp business. And when you first log in or claim your business page, you’ll actually see a lot of areas where you can dive in deeper. 

Filling your business information

The first section I want you to go to though, is the business information section. So here’s what that looks like both on desktop and on the mobile app.

When you navigate to business information, you want to first check that the basic things are accurate, your name. If you have an address. Now, if you don’t, you want to include a city and zip code and then a service area. So up to six cities or zip codes that will essentially be the furthest points you’d be willing to travel and serve a client. Yelp will then cover that area and indicate that you can do searches anywhere in that area. Phone number, of course. Website is great. And then categories, you can be in up to three categories on Yelp.

And it’s important to think about the different consumers that you might potentially serve. Let’s take an easy example, like an Italian restaurant that also has a bar with TVs. They want to be listed under Italian food, of course, but also sports bar. Those are two very different customers that they can serve equally. Another great example would be if you’re a real estate agent and you also offer mortgage services, that’s not implied that if you do one, you do the other. So you want to have both those categories on your profile. Ours are extremely important.

Updating your hours

And we actually found in a recent study that open now or open at a certain time is the most common filter that users apply when they do searches on Yelp. So even if you’re a by appointment only business, you want to have your hours filled out so that you can appear in those searches as a relevant option. Now the holidays are coming up and that’s true all year round. There’s always some new holiday in the future, right? And on Yelp, you can set your holiday hours as far in the future as you’d like.

So I recommend logging in every quarter specifically to do that. When you indicate those holiday hours in the future, it will then appear the week of on your Yelp profile with a little banner that your hours are different from standard on that particular day or week. You can also temporarily close your business. 

Adding further information

And this next section is in my opinion, the most underutilized and valuable section of your free profile. It’s your further info section. You can tell people your specialties, your history, and some information about you as the owner or manager.

Now, the best information to put in here is descriptions of who you are and what you do. And you want to use keywords or phrases that might help you appear in search results. Now, this isn’t ad words, you don’t want to just list a bunch of terms separated by commas. You want to include sentences. And you’ve probably already done the legwork to fill this section out. Maybe it’s your about section on your website or you’ve written some posts on social media to tell people who you are and what you offer.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can grab that information and plug it in here on your Yelp page. This is also an area where once it’s completed, you don’t need to constantly update. Unless things are changing with your business, this is one of those set it and forget it sections. 


Next is photos. And we have to remember that especially as many of us use our smartphones to search for everything, photos and images become more and more important. On Yelp, you can upload unlimited photos. To do that, you’re going to log in at This is again what that looks like on desktop or on the mobile app. And the photos and videos tab is there on the left hand navigator, right below business information. 

Now, if you’re in an industry where you’re thinking, “Emily, I don’t have a bunch of photogenic things to show. I don’t have a brick and mortar or a bunch of food photos I can upload.” That’s okay. Remember, people want to see pictures of people. So show yourself, or your staff, show the services you provide.

Some people might not think that plumbing photos are all that appealing, but if I’m looking for a plumber, plumbing photos are exactly what I need. So be sure to include those and be sure to caption them and show people what they’re looking at. Captions also help you appear in search results. So you can use those strategically and include keywords and phrases that describe what you do. 

Engaging with reviews

Now, it wouldn’t be a Yelp presentation without talking about reviews. And this section is one of my favorites because I always say the key to success with online reviews is deciding to engage. And that’s what this section is all about. Consumers expect to see responses from business owners to their online reviews. And by not engaging, you’re simply letting them down. Now, a lot of business owners have told me in my career, “Emily, the reason I don’t engage with my online reviews is because it’s a lot of negativity. It’s a lot of people just hiding behind the keyboard and complaining.”

Now I get it, critical reviews hurt, and they’re frustrating, but on Yelp, nearly 80% of our reviews are positive and we have more five star reviews than one, two and three star reviews combined. So far more often, consumers are turning to Yelp to recommend places they love and refer people to places that they enjoy doing business. So keep that in mind and make sure you’re not missing out on all that positive content because you’re afraid of the negative.

Now, I all always tell people when you’re deciding to engage, the hardest part is what to say. And so think about a plan for what you’re going to respond to in advance. That way, when you get that alert or you get that first critical review, you’re not as unsure what the next steps are, you’re prepared. 

Positive reviews

Let’s start with the positive reviews because they are what we deal with more often. I break my positive reviews into two categories. First, something to add. If a reviewer mentioned offerings or services that you want to get more attention for or that you want more customers to know about, a great way to reinforce that is respond publicly to their review and reemphasize those items or offerings. The keywords and phrases in your review responses do help you appear in search results. So it’s a great way to deepen that connection with the customer and reinforce the things that they mention.

Now, if you’re dealing with a high volume of reviews or you don’t have the extra minutes to write a customized few sentences, then I recommend using the direct message to copy and paste a generic thank you or use the, thank button that’s there for you on the Yelp app. 

Now, I personally think that every positive review is an opportunity to deepen the relationship with someone who supports and champions your business. So I think it’s worth a couple of extra minutes. But again, if you’re dealing with high volume or you don’t have the time, it’s far better to send those brief and copied messages as a direct message, as opposed to pasting those on the front end of your account. 

Critical reviews

Now, let’s break down the critical reviews because they do happen, right? The first box, in my opinion, is legitimate. We’re all humans. And we all make mistakes. If you have a larger staff, for example, the odds of things going wrong, just continue to increase, right?

And legitimate concerns or breakdowns in the system happen. For me in this past year, I’ve had a couple of breakdowns with a dentist that I really loved. I had been traveling a little further than normal because I’m working from home during the pandemic. And on two separate occasions, they had to cancel my appointment while I was already halfway to my appointment. Once my hygienist had been around a COVID case so obviously, nothing they could do about that. I’m glad that she stayed home and didn’t expose me.

The second time, they double booked my hygienist for me and another client. And it was a real bummer because I loved going to them. But that breakdown in the system cost me to find a new dentist closer to home. And so sometimes legitimate things arise. I can’t write critical reviews. I can’t write reviews at all, because it is a conflict of interest, but it was a system error that really impacted my experience as a consumer. So remember all those times when maybe that’s happened to you in different industries as well, and try to put yourself in the shoe of the consumers. 

Humanizing your business

But also, remember that a public comment can go such a far way and really humanize your business when something did go wrong. Now, in those public comments, you’re not going to get into a back and forth dialogue about every little thing that they criticized. It’s better to just address the review, thank them for taking the time to share their experience and then taking the conversation offline so you can gather more information.

Truly your response is for every other potential consumer out there to show that you care about your feedback and you care about your customer’s experience. Inaccuracies, these are worth correcting if they impact and influence future consumers. And what I mean by that is this, if someone wrote an inaccuracy that really is minoring doesn’t impact the consumer experience, like whether or not you have a water station available for customers. That might be something not worth getting into the details in a public response. Now, if they have your specials, your offerings, your prices wrong, for example, those might be things worth setting the record straight on. 

Raves and rants

The last category here is a rant or a rave. And I think we all know this person who maybe is a negative Nancy. Or in some cases, your business just might be the one at the end of someone’s bad day. I was talking to a guy last week who owns a towing company. And he said, “Emily, it’s unfortunate. A lot of the time, people are very mad before they call me. I have a chance to turn them around and provide great service, but they start off mad.”

And sometimes people just are having a bad day when they interact with your business. So I want you to remember that critical reviews are not the end all be all. In fact, there’s a ton of studies that show consumers are smart and they look at all of the information, but they can also identify people that are, as we’re stating here, ranting. Now, something you can do as a business owner is click on the name of the user who wrote the review. You’ll see a full breakdown of their Yelp profile, and you’ll be able to see if they skew negative all the time. If so, maybe it’s not worth responding.

Or if it is, maybe you just send a direct message to avoid riling them up or making the situation worse. Now, I will say short public comments are always a great approach and I always recommend them. But as a company, you might decide that that’s not the path for you. And as long as you have a reason and rationale behind your strategy, and you have a plan in place to approach reviews, you will start seeing the successes of that strategy. 

Now, we have to talk about amplifying the positivity, because again, that is much more of what you’re getting on the site and on review sites in general. And if you’re not looking at the positive as an opportunity to gather insights and reinforce the things you’re doing well, the negatives will hurt more. So make sure that you celebrate the positives, share them on social media, share them on your website. And it doesn’t just have to be Yelp reviews, you can share reviews you’re getting from all different sites. Whenever you’re dealing with reviews, it’s important to know that emotions can get high.

Having a good mindset

A business owner that I’ve worked with for years, always says, “Emily, first I pause. I take a minute or sometimes up to 24 hours to step away from the review and calm myself down. Then I always take the high road. I am the professional, I’m the business owner, and I’m not going to break that in any sort of public forum. It would be like if I lost my cool on a customer in person. And of course, I would never do that. I would remain cool and I need to apply that same method digitally.”

And then lastly, he says, “I take comfort in knowing I can’t please 100% of my customers 100% of the time.” Studies have actually shown that business pages with four, four and a half, three and a half star ratings can perform better than five star business pages because they build consumer trust. And where that critical review helps you is when you respond and you acknowledge that you do care about your consumer experience. You can reference these slides for some tips and tricks on what to not do as well as what you should be doing when you’re responding to reviews. And it can be tough, but run it past another person on your team.

Send me an email, ask me to read it before you post it. I do it all the time for folks. But get someone else’s feedback if you’re concerned or reference back on these dos and don’ts. I’ve mentioned the business owners app, but I need to mention it again here, because it is the best way to stay in touch and engage with your customers, particularly when you want to respond to reviews in a timely manner. I know so many of us have our mobile device handy far more than we’re sitting at a computer these days.

Health, safety, and operations

This section is one we created in the early days of the pandemic. And I have to say, I didn’t think we’d still be referencing it, but it is such an important thing for us to be aware of, especially as things continue to evolve and change with COVID-19. Now, when you log into your business user account, you’ll see the COVID section. And for us, it’ll walk you through all of the different areas where you can fill out information about what your business is doing. But at the end of the day, this entire section is about creating a clear, concise and consistent message with the most important information for your consumers.

So I tell my business owners, when you’re filling this out on Yelp, jot down some notes on a sticky note or a notepad of what things you are doing, is your team wearing masks, are you checking vaccine cards, any of those types of items. And then think of how you can spread that message across all of your platforms beyond Yelp. One of the key features that we dropped right away when the pandemic hit was the COVID banner. Now, this is an area that’s the most prominent on your listing.

It’s at the very top, both on mobile and desktop, and it allows you to promote the most important message at that time. I’ve seen a lot of businesses change gears and start using this banner as a place to promote specials or upcoming offerings. That is totally fine, but know that it’s also an area where you can put that pronto information, “Closed for the weekend, see you next Tuesday,” things of that nature. Virtual service offerings, I know many of you probably pivoted during the pandemic to create virtual offerings.

Staying relevant with your business format

Now, you might be back to quote unquote “Normal,” and you might be in person, but if you have the capabilities to serve a customer virtually you should indicate that on your profile. Because there are still some consumers who comfort level is at virtual still. And so they’ll be doing a search on Yelp for an industry. Let’s say, for example, real estate agents. And they’ll drill down by offers virtual consultations. And if you don’t have that checked, you will not appear as a relevant result.

But if you can serve that need, you should have that marked so that you show up. Health and safety measures are also just going to be a section where you check boxes. So what you are or aren’t doing, it’s a said it and forget it until things change with your business. So walk through that section once, fill it out and think of the ways that you can continue to spread that message across other platforms. Here’s what it looks like and where it appears on your profile, which is why it is so important to have completed and filled out.

Updating your COVID section

It’s also good to note that business pages that have their COVID section completed do show up as a more relevant option for consumers, because we know the information on the page is accurate and has been modified by the business. I’m sure you’ve all done so many things in the past nearly two years to protect both yourself, your staff and your customer base. Don’t be shy, show consumers what you’re doing, what you’re continuing to do and what you’d like to offer them when they return working with you, whether that’s in person or virtually. 

Updating customers with pictures

Take pictures, add them to your Yelp pages and add them to other places like your social media and your website as well. This is the story images on the Instagram account of my local cycling studio. They started running these right when they began reopening for the very first time in the pandemic. And of course, there’s been some opening and restricting and closing over time, but they continue to push this message and they have it shared on their account to show customers what to expect. 

And the reason I love this so much is because it clearly serves two audiences, the people who might have concerns about being safe and wanting to be spread out and distant as well as the people who aren’t as concerned about that, but just need to know what to expect when they show up. So maybe it’s worth taking some time putting together some images or information that describes how you’re operating and functioning so that you can get ahead of some of those frequently asked questions. 

New tools and features

In these last few minutes here, I’m going to go over new tools and features you might not be familiar with, and that will help you have the best presence on our site. Some are going to be free, and are going to be paid.

I will be explicit with you about which are which, and it is also labeled here in the slides so you can reference back and know. Something that we pride ourselves on at Yelp is full transparency around these things, and also having complete access for business owners to tell their business story and connect with consumers for free. 

Free products

So these first few sections labeled with the red toolbar on the left are going to be free products and services. This first one is services offered. So if you are in a service category, whether that’s a home service, a professional service, a local service, each of your categories has services under it. So what you’ll do is you’ll select your three categories and then each category that has services offered will show you that dropdown beneath it. 

Now in the services offered section, you want to only check what you do do. Let me say that again, you want to only check what you do do. A big misconception or misuse of Yelp is trying to say we do this and we don’t do that. On your profile, you want to build up and amplify the things that you offer and just not mention the others. That will help you get visibility for those items and not appear for the things in your industry that you do not provide. 


We also have attributes that are free to activate. If you self-identify as a black business owner, Latinx business owner or women business owner. And we are hoping to add new attributes as the new year’s continue to come. But these are areas where we’ve seen huge increases by consumers who are intentionally spending their dollars and wanting to support businesses in these different areas. So if that is something you identify as, certainly fill that out on your profile. It’s a great way to deepen a relationship with consumers looking to who intentionally spend their dollars. 

The “Open to All” toolkit

We also have our Open to All toolkit. Open to All is an organization that provides support, resources and education for businesses and entrepreneurs on how to provide a more open and welcoming space for people, no matter what your background, whether that’s religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, any of those differences that make all of us incredible.

If your business is open to serving all consumers, we’d love you to take that Open to All pledge. It’s a great way for consumers to find and connect with you and support you for all the great work you’re doing to be an open and welcoming place.

Requesting a quote

We also have a request to quote or message the business function. This surprisingly for some is a free feature. We want you to be able to talk to your customers. And by doing that, all you need to do in your account is activate your inbox email settings.

And the reason is if we turn on this function and allow customers to message you, we want to make sure that they’re going to hear back from someone. So you need to have your notifications and your email set up so that you can receive those quotes and messages and start talking to consumers who are interested in working with your business. 

Advertising and paid products

All right, we’re going to transition to advertising and paid products to close us out in these final minutes. First, I have to acknowledge that Yelp ads have changed significantly in the past few years.

So if you have advertised with us years ago, and haven’t been in the profile and looked at the ad features in a while, I suggest you click around. It is totally customizable to your own needs and modifiable to what suits you, whether that’s seasonal or certain areas. You have a lot of autonomy to set up and hone your ad campaign. 

So ads, in my opinion are broken into two separate sections. The first is cost per click. So similar to ad words, if you’ve done social ads before, you’re going to set a max budget for a given month, and then you’re going to describe what area you want those ads running.

You’re going to describe any keywords that you want to block. You’re also going to describe who you’re trying to target. And then your ads are going to be run above number one and on competitor pages, when people are searching for what you do until your budget is fulfilled for the month. You can adjust as needed. There is no term contract you can always go in and modify based on if you’re looking for more or less clients. We also have a totally new look to the ads dashboard.

There’s more control by you to just modify the budget, turn things on or off. And there’s also more detailed metrics and displays of your performance. For example, in the form of heat maps. 

Yelp Connect

Yelp Connect is a paid product and it gets us into that second area of ad items. So the second area is all about how your profile looks and how you connect with consumers. So beginning with Yelp Connect, Yelp Connect allows you to create posts with images and texts that get sent out to your followers.

So every business already has a set group of followers. And then you also get to send it out to Yelp users who might be interested in business or your information. These posts also display on your Yelp listing so people who are doing searches and landing on your Yelp page can see them promoted at the very top. So they’re great to promote specials, seasonal offerings. They’re great to push information about the certain services that you provide or the certain menu items that you have.

You’ll get weekly emails showing your statistics as well as those heat maps of where your posts are performing and being opened, which can really help you hone those posts and continue to leverage them to your advantage. 


Logo is a paid product that allows you to add your Yelp logo at the very top of your listing, as well as put it in search. So next to your business information will be your logo. This can help a lot of industries who want that logo recognition.

Maybe you have vehicles or staff wearing uniforms around town, and you want people to acknowledge that it’s you, that they’re seen in both Yelp and their everyday life. Business highlights, allow you to pick up to six things that might help you stand out. Maybe you’ve been in business for 18 years, maybe you’re available 24/7. Maybe you are veteran owned and operated. There’s tons of different highlights that you can choose from and promote. And these are not only listed on your profile, but in search results as well. So they help convert consumers who might find one of those highlighted attributes a reason to spend money with your business. 

Verified License

Verified License is great for all those home pros and service providers who do need licenses to operate. So depending on the state that you’re in and the offerings you provide, you might have that verified license feature in your business user account. This is a paid product and it pulls licensing data and information from local government sources. Portfolios are an incredible way to show jobs or offerings, both with video and text.

You can also do pricing, you can do ranges, you can do job descriptions. So we’ve seen these used in tons of industries, roofing, home service providers, skincare. When you have different services, offerings, or specials, it’s a great way to show visually and describe the offering. Also, anything to do with body shops or auto dealerships, we see tons of leveraging there. Essentially, these latter half features that I’m talking about, allow you to showcase what you do best. So it really gives you a place at the top to verify that you are licensed and trusted.

It highlights the portfolios that you choose, businesses. So just really puts the important information at the very top. I would be remiss if I did a presentation without mentioning the business blog. Especially during the pandemic when our team wasn’t able to connect to business owners in person, we took to the blog to create resources and topics that are not only Yelp focused, best ways to maximize your profile and respond to reviews, but also not Yelp focused.

Creating a marketing strategy

How do you create a marketing strategy that includes social and your website and an email campaign, for example? How do you connect with customers digitally when you can’t see them in person? So tons of great resources and stories there for you to access. We also have a podcast and partnership with Entrepreneur magazine that I host called Behind The Review. Every week we have a 15 to 20 minute episode, and it features conversations with an entrepreneur as well as someone who wrote them a Yelp review on their business page.

So we love sharing these stories. They’re a great way for you to hear firsthand experiences of business owners and how they engage digitally. It’s also a great way to hear what consumers are thinking about and what makes them want to share an experience with a local business online. We have covered so much information in this presentation, and I’m so glad you stuck with me. You learned about consumer behavior.

You now know how to complete your Yelp profile and leverage all those free tools to help you be found. We dug into the COVID resources and ways you can continue to communicate what you’re going to protect your customers and your team. And we talked about all the new features and tools that you can maximize on the free and paid side to make the most of your presence on the site. Thank you again for joining me, and please do not hesitate to connect with me offline. I’d love to see you in my inbox or even on LinkedIn. Reach me at We’ll see you on our next webinar.

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